Trachycarpus on Parade

A timely summary of this popular genus which will hopefully remove the confusion which surrounds it. A comprehensive listing of all 8 species, with notes on each.
by Martin Gibbons, Ham Street, Ham, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7HA, UK

Chamaerops No.24, Autumn Edition 1996

Photo: 4 are better than one: Multi-headed Trachy

In the recent issue of 'Hardy Palm International', the journal of the Pacific Northwest Palm and Exotic Plant Society, there was an article about Trachycarpus which illustrates the confusion that - even now - abounds about this popular genus. I sat down to write a reply and guessed that our readers would likely be just as interested. So here it is. Im not sore If you can plagiarize your own work and hope that the Pacific North westerners will forgive me for going to press first.

Joe Herbert's article on Trachycarpus in the recent issue of HPI has prompted me to write a brief letter about the genus, and to list all the species with their correct names. This will form the basis of a more comprehensive article which will be submitted to 'Principes' in due course, but so often I see mistakes, and so many people are obviously confused about the different species I think it would be helpful to pre-empt that and let you'all have a preview.

As you know, Tobias Spanner of Munich, and I have carried out many field trips studying this genus in India, Nepal, China, Thailand and Burma and gained an enormous amount of knowledge about it. We have found three new species, one of which was published in 'Principes' and two more are in press. Here are what we see as the eight species of Trachycarpus.

There are two Trachycarpus seed shapes, which provide a natural division within the genus :

A. Those with Reniform (kidney-shaped) seeds

1. Trachycarpus fortunei. Easily recogmzed, widespread, popular and much loved species from China, but so widely cultivated there, it seems impossible to determine its precise origin, or to believe that there are any truly wild specimens left.

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